The other day a friend asked me, “How do you know it’s time for Halloween?”
“The nights get cold and leaves fall off of trees,” I said.
“That, and stores start to decorate for Christmas,” he said.
It’s now October, so I can write something about Halloween, even though Halloween candy has been available in stores in Utah for at least a month.
When I moved to Utah from Washington state, I went to visit a friend in West Valley City in October.
It was after dark when I pulled into his driveway. When he came to the door I asked him why he had Christmas lights up in October and why they were all orange.
They weren’t Christmas lights, I learned they were Halloween lights. And he wasn’t alone, many other homes I saw that month were lit up and decorated with all kinds of lights and decorations.
Communities celebrate Halloween in different ways, many people in Utah go all out of the holiday.
I was watching TV the other day and a commercial came on for a channel that was holding a Friday the 13th movie marathon for Halloween.
That made me wonder when Halloween became a gruesome and scary holiday. Friday the 13th after all, wasn’t on Halloween or it would be named Friday the 31st.
I can recall as a kid wearing a mask and running around the neighborhood as Superman, Batman or Casper the Friendly Ghost, or maybe a witch, vampire, or Frankenstien at the worst. We bobbed for apples and drank spiced — not spiked — apple cider. It was fun and light hearted.
As I got older I worked with my neighbor friends across the street and we made a spook house using a Walt Disney record of Halloween Sounds. It was Walt Disney, in the 1960s … it wasn’t that scary.
So when did Halloween become about mass murder, blood and guts, and terror?
Well, there was the 1978 original “Halloween” movie. After being institutionalized for 15 years, Michael Myers breaks out on the night before Halloween. I’ve never seen the movie, but I’ve been told there’s a lot of blood and death. And Micahel Meyers returned to make several sequels of Halloween mayhem.
I much prefer “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” for my Halloween cinematic entertainment.
Halloween has interesting origins as a holiday.
Back when I wrote for my junior high newspaper, “The Chinook Wind,” one of my assignments was to write about holidays.
I would turn to the encyclopedias in the library to get the history of the holidays and then add a quote or two from students about their plans for the holiday.
Now in the modern electronic age I turned to History.com for a brief lesson on the origins of Halloween.
According to History.com, Halloween originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.
In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints. Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween.
By the 9th century, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted older Celtic rites. In 1000 A.D., the church made Nov. 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. It’s widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, church-sanctioned holiday.
All Souls’ Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils.
There’s more Halloween history, some dark and some not so dark.
This year Halloween falls on a Sunday, which has many people concerned about whether they will trick-or-treat on the Sabbath or observe Halloween on the “real” day … you know October 31, the day when the dead come back to earth to hunt you down.
The Sunday Halloween dilemma is not a Utah specific problem.
The town of Rehoboth, Delaware solved the issue with a law.
Delarwareonline reported in 2018 that Rehoboth had a law, last revised in 1977, that outlaws trick-or-treating on Sundays.
You can find all sorts of other weird Halloween laws when you search on Google.
For example — In Hollywood, California it is illegal to possess, use, sell or distribute Silly String in public areas on Halloween. In Bellevile, Illinois soliciting candy is restricted to between 5 and 8:30 p.m. In Alabama you can get arrested for dressing up like a clergyman, even on Halloween. In 2020 due to COVID-19, El Paso Texas banned door to door trick-or-treating.
As for me and my house, we will be there to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters of any age on Saturday or Sunday.
And while you’re there you can walk through my neighbors most excellent Halloween yard.